Authors: Jonathan Bisson , James Graham , Guido F. Pauli
NAPRALERT is a database on natural products, including data on the ethnobotany, chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical trials. It was established in 1975 by the late Norman R. Farnsworth, at a time when computerized databases were just starting. It became web-accessible in 2005. Due to resource constraints, few enhancements were made to the existing database structure. Now, 10 years later, NAPRALERT faces the challenge of catching-up with other well-established resources.
Beginning in 2015, we started a complete rewrite of the code and database scheme using more extensible technologies. A new version was rolled out on October 1, 2015, providing limited free-searches to academics, industry, and governmental agencies around the globe. Currently we are enhancing the system with improved search and data-entry procedures. However, we recognize the fundamental limitations of the current approach, and realize that it is now time to extend and connect with existing repositories of bibliographical data, chemical structures, and biological activities including those not reported in the natural product literature. The development of deep-learning and natural language processing now brings the possibility to respond to the exponential increase of publications and streamlining their incorporation. Semantic web technologies now make it possible to not only link existing databases, but to infer sense within and between them. We outline some of these critical new tools that will unlock the potential of NAPRALERT, and explore methods that will unravel new connections between natural products and broader organismal, chemical, and pharmacological concepts.